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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    My son complains about not being able to fall asleep. Why can't he fall asleep?

    This has been a frequent occurrence for my 15 year old son.

    I am not sure if it is anxiety related.

    I try and get him to get off the “screens” an hour before bed.

    He says that even reading doesn't help him get to sleep before 12.

    Any suggestions?
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  • Grant McKell

    Psychologist

    1

    Thanks

    Grant McKell is a counselling psychologist working in Sydney's inner west with over ten years' experience. He founded HeadsUp Psychology in August, 2011. Having worked in ... View Profile

    First step- go to a doctor and have him checked out for any medical explanation for his sleeping problems. Next, get your son to research a substance in our bodies called melatonin. I say this, because he is unlikely to believe anything mum tells him- this is normal for teenage boys. He needs to turn off the screens an hour, ideally two hours before sleep and read under an incandescent reading light with all other lights off. Darkness tells our bodies it is night time, which initiates melatonin production, which makes us have that sleepy feeling. Limit caffeine intake to the first part of the day- none after 2pm. Make sure he is eating breakfast and lunch- otherwise he may be running on adrenalin and cortisol during the day. Get some daily exercise of 30 minutes and eat a good balance of green leafy vegetables and proteins. You may want to consider getting a melatonin supplement for a while from your chemist. Lastly, a good psychologist may be able to help him with anxiety or thoughts racing through his head before bedtime- I think a technique called mindfulness can be helpful with this, but it needs to be taught and practised. Let us know how you go! (Sorry this is all in one paragraph- my ENTER key isn't working for some reason). Grant.

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  • lovelife

    Healthshare Member

    2

    Thanks

    I wish melatonin was around when my son was young. I had the same problem with my son and I used to give him magnesium, which helped relax his muscles, he is 25 and still has the same problem.

  • Moushami Kadkol

    Occupational Therapist (OT)

    1

    Thanks

    Did your child have these concerns since he was an infant? Did he need to be cuddled constantly or taken on rides or rocked to put him to sleep as an infant?

    I have had a 12 year old child in my clinic with similar concerns. He was referred by his psychologist to assess underlying Sensory Processing Disorder. His main concerns were difficulties in falling asleep, staying awake. They had tried everything under the sky, even got him assessed for ttention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. But there was no change.

    Sensory Processing disorders happen when the one or more sensory systems like touch, vision, hearing, taste, smell, balance and movement have difficulties processing information and making sense of it for the brain to understand and react. Difficulties in tactile (touch) modulation and movement can lead to this dysregulation happening.

    You can try snugging your child in lycra garments under his night suit, ask him to maintain a before bed time diary to write down his before sleep thoughts, listen to soft classical music notes/  melodies. It would be good to consult an Occupational Therapist which special interest and certification in assessing and managing Sensory Processing.

  • Jessica Cole

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am registered and endorsed as a Clinical Psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia, having completed a Bachelor of Psychology at University of Western ... View Profile

    This is a very common issue amongst adolescents when their tiredness tends to kick in later and later on top of all the other distractons that are around these days. It is known as a delayed sleep phase. 

    I have attached a link for you if you would like some further information and some tips to help your son: 

    http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/public-information/fact-sheets-a-z/199-teenage-sleep.html

    If he continues to have difficulty and it is noticeably affecting his daytime performance it might be worth contacting a clnical psychologist specialising in the treatment of sleep dfficulties who would be able to help implement effective strategies to improve his sleep. 

    Good luck!

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